Friday, March 20, 2009

Atmospheric Disturbances - Rivka Galchen

100% my own fault, again. It's right on the back: 'Murakami-esque.' Atmospheric Disturbances DOES WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN! Which is to say, it peppered me with an unsolved and unsolvable mystery, and also a great deal of weather jargon.
And I know, we should all resist the shunting of books into categories with labels, because that is restricting, but I don't like magical realism, me. And for those that aren't all Murakami-esque, I think there should still be a stamp on the front: Raych, this book will make you chew rocks. Or something to that effect. Because I am going to sum up this story for you, and YOU TELL ME IF IT MAKES ANY SENSE!
Dr Leo's wife, Rema, arrives home one day, only that's not Rema (I mean, we're looking down on Wayne's basement, only that's not Wayne's basement. Isn't that weird? Garth, that was a haiku!), and only Dr Leo realizes that it's not Rema because the woman looks and talks and smells exactly like Rema. Except that the faux-Rema brought home a dog, and the real Rema probably wouldn't have, and you think this is going to be important but *psyche!* it's not.
So Dr Leo sets out to find the real Rema by researching the work of a scientist that he and Rema had borrowed the name of to help deal with one of Dr Leo's psychotic patients who thinks he controls the weather. Let me reiterate: this scientist (Tzvi 'Liketobuyavowel' Gal-Chen) is just a name they pulled out of a hat so they could say to the patient, Dr Gal-Chen says such-and-such. Also, the real Dr Gal-Chen is dead. Except that now his work is extremely relevant to the missing Rema, and Dr Leo BEGINS COMMUNICATING WITH HIM VIA EMAIL!!!
You may recall from the previous paragraph that Dr Gal-Chen is dead.
Anyway, Dr Gal-Chen sometimes has no idea what Dr Leo is talking about, and is sometimes overly helpful, and Leo heads down to Buenos Aires because maybe Rema's mom will have something to say about all this, except he lies to Rema's mom about being married to Rema, and then runs into the psychotic patient who has come to Buenos Aires to mess with the weather patterns, and the two of them and Dr Gal-Chen put their collective heads together to figure out exactly nothing.
The end.
I know! But there were all of those clues! Reading magical realism is like being pelted (smelted?) with red herrings, and then the answer is that there is no spoon. *gnash gnash*
But some people like to read things like this (he's just realized that the faux-Rema is looking at him in the mirror, and not at herself): 'That's just what it seemed like if one didn't account for anticipatable perceptive distortions. But hadn't I knows all that about mirrors already? And yet right then it was as if I'd lost that knowledge and had to learn it again. Something about how we really don't understand how mirrors work, or what they are showing us, which is interesting to think about considering that mirrors are the main way we have of understanding what we look like' and so on ad infinitum. And once again I am convinced that there is a Deeper Meaning and that if I didn't spend so much time reading about vampires and mad relatives, I'd've gotten it. But I'm not convinced I want to be that kind of person.
So, two caterpillars because it had words, and the writing was good when it wasn't being Important or talking about obscure weather phenomena.


Sadako said...

Cool review, I think I'm with you. I liked Norwegian Wood by Murakami because it was pretty realistic but the magical part of magical realism usually leaves me cold. Will probably give Atmospheric Disturbances a miss.

Jeane said...

"two caterpillars because it had words" that made me laugh! I don't really like magical realism, either. My own dreams are confusing enough. I don't need to read a whole book written like them.

Kelly (AKA bookfool) said...

Meander on over to my blog, The Novel Bookworm, if you get the chance. I awarded you the Sisterhood Award, make me laugh everytime you write something!!

two caterpillars....teehee....hey, it got published, I guess that's something..

smallbyrd said...

I love your reference to Wayne's World.

Bybee said...

Whoa! Thanks for the warning; I'll run right out and avoid it.

Rachel said...

Great review! I will be sure and cross this one off my list.

3M said...

I actually loved this book. Part of the reason, though, was that I had recently been to Argentina and there were quite a few inside jokes and references that I was able to catch. I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did if not for that.